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Aug 12, 2014 12:05 PM EDT

Researchers Develop New Method to Treat Male Infertility

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Queen's University researchers have developed a new method to treat male infertility - where a patient's sperm is unable to initiate the activation of egg to form an early embryo.

They have found a new synthetic version of the sperm-originated protein called PAWP that helps to trigger the fertilization process.

"PAWP is able to induce embryo development in human eggs in a fashion similar to the natural triggering of embryo development by the sperm cell during fertilization," Researcher Richard Oko from the Biomedical and Molecular Sciences said in a statement. "Based on our findings, we envision that physicians will be able to improve their diagnosis and treatment of infertility, a problem that affects 10 to 15 per cent of couples worldwide."

The researchers said that currently most infertility problems are being treated by injecting a single sperm directly into an egg. By supplementing the sperm with PAWP protein, medical staff can improve the success rate of infertility treatments in future.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's 2013 Annual Report on Assisted Reproductive Technologies, only about 37 per cent of treatment cycles results in successful pregnancy. The low success rate can be attributed to various factors including the inability of sperm cell to induce fertilization and activate embryo development upon egg entry.

"The results of our study set the stage for further investigation of PAWP protein as a molecular marker for diagnosis and as a factor for improvement of infertility treatments," said Oko.

The finding is published in the FASEB Journal.

A recent study by the Stanford University Medical Center found that infertile men are at an increased risk of dying sooner than those with normal semen.

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